WTF is “Sex” Anyway?

(WARNING: The following post contains a plethora of quotation marks.)*

I was reading a friend’s social media page recently and saw that so-and-so was “an amazingly sexual creature.”

Lifestyle magazines tell readers to “embrace your sexuality.”

Critics of political lesbianism*, from the they’re-really-just-celibate-straights corner, are concerned that poli-lez perpetuates the idea that “lesbians don’t have sex.”

What I am wondering is what people even mean when they use words like “sex” and “sexual” and “sexuality.” When I do a definition search, I get a somewhat circular scramble leading from/to intercourse, reproduction, gametes, eroticism, libido, desire. To complicate it all for radical feminists, what most people mean by “sex” is PIV, which makes sense if derived from “sexual intercourse”/”sexual reproduction”, but then “lesbians have sex too!” and “you don’t need a penis to have sex!” What is it to “have sex”? I mean, apparently you can “have sex” with yourself or with inanimate objects. If the only thing that brings me to orgasm is watching grey squirrels leap from limb to limb through fall foliage, could I be said to be “having sex” while watching said leaping? If the only thing that turns a man on is watching/visualizing a woman being murdered, could he be said to be “having sex” while watching such a tragic scene? Why does a “healthy relationship” require “having sex” regularly?

What is the commonality? Is genital arousal (measured by increased blood flow) the marker of a “sexual experience”? Well that gets complicated when undesirable stimuli turn us on, and our mental “sexual arousal” does not match our genital arousal. Is it then personally defined in the mind? When my lover rubs my back while feeding me starfruit and quoting Emily Dickinson, and I find it the most desirable and bonding experience in the world, is this sexual desire? Where is the “sexual” in it? Must a “sexual” experience necessarily involve genital contact? If yes, then where does “sexual attraction” (or other non-contact experiences) fit in? Did “sex” “not really happen” if someone didn’t orgasm?

OK. I’m being a bit foggy here. What I’m trying to get at is the essence of “sexuality” or “sex.” My mind has been turning, and it comes up with theories. Perhaps in times past, “sex” WAS shorthand for “sexual intercourse” (PIV). Male-female couples therefore had “sex.” Because PIV is a marker of ownership/romance/success/love/marriage/religiosity/whatever, that is, because PIV is THE IMPORTANT EVENT in whatever cultural element you’re talking about, and because PIV=”sex”, then people who don’t PIV, wanting to claim morality/success/love/whatever also, decide that certain non-PIV acts are also “sex.” Now “we are just as good/healthy/successful/loving/whatever as those PIVers.” Then “sex” starts to function as a floating signifier, meaning godknowswhat but everyone pretends we’re all talking about the same thing.

So when PIV-centric people say lesbians don’t have “sex,” they are 100% correct because lesbians are not PIVing. So why should lesbians get offended and try to convince the PIV-centrics that “oh no, lesbians really do have ‘sex'”? What is the essence of what they/we are trying to claim in claiming “sex”? What are we losing if we don’t?

Why is it so *crucial* that a lesbian be “actually” “sexually” attracted to women, as opposed to “merely” feeling “special friendship”? What is so shitty and inferior about having an overwhelming fondness and respect? What is so superior about having a genital response/enjoyment of nudity/PIV-reenactment/possessive tendencies/whatever people are defining as “sexual”?

Or what about the cultural agreement that “men have big sex drives and men are also great” whereas “women have no sex drives and women also suck”? And then women are like “Wait no women are great too! We have sex drives! We’ll prove it by fucking everyone! See! Sexual beings! Therefore women are great!”

If anyone has ideas, please tell me. This all comes in context of the political lesbian** debate, and (1) I honestly do not know what the fuck women (pro- and anti-) mean when they say “sexually attracted to women.” And (2) I am questioning whether the whole idea of “sex” and “sexuality” is not really derived from heterosexuality/PIV.

*(This is totally a ramble. I am not pretending to be coherent here. Maybe I will try to develop this more later, and maybe I will not.)

**(I get that there is a big difference between growing up afraid that people will find out you are an immoral freak and then beat you up, and growing up without that fear.)

Edit: Oh thank goodness.  Sonia Johnson has already thought about this stuff.  I will just have to finish reading The Ship That Sailed Into the Living Room.

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23 thoughts on “WTF is “Sex” Anyway?

  1. tnt666

    haha, as a female, gender atheist, bi… I totally understand your point. It’s what Ms Bindel says, gay politics have become hetero-monogamy-normative. It has come to be disappointing to a great many lesbians.

    Reply
  2. Kendra RadFem Hill

    I don’t know much about political lesbianism (yet), and hope not to hurt anybody or anybody’s beliefs: for i don’t know whether or not my views are compatible with political lesbianism ones.
    nevertheless, here are then some shreds from them on sexuality and whatnot -in the hope it be found a use for it by somebody.

    So for starters: in my views, asexuality is a thing (beyond the narcissist Internet world recently created around the term and its otherwise logical and empirical meaning). From there, i think that it’d be intuitively rather un-logical (and should i say unsentimental) to consider a woman-loving-women but also asexual as not a lesbian -to me it really wouldn’t make any sense, would destroy the foremostness of the part of the conceit related to sentimental bonding: for isn’t it the most important, the fact that makes of lesbian love a beyond-space-and-time force? Or am i going too sentimental?

    This special “exception” of asexual lesbians i think logically extends by implication the definition of that term (lesbian/ism), and as it is not truly possible, authoritarian ideology put aside, to draw the line between “strong” (i mean, real strong) friendship and what i would call (“confirmed”) lovership, i think it to be rather necessary to find a definition for lesbianism (here, the simple fact of being a lesbian, according to the defined definition of it) that would actually encompass all the females that would (or could) feel any form of (truly) strong female-to-female love (general meaning of the term, but still a bit more than for good music ^^) and, a contrario, that wouldn’t AND *could never* experience any form of female-to-male loveship (if ever possible anyways in this patriarchist world).

    I liked very much what you said about sex, and how it most surely historically stem from pure and ol’ PIV… AKA: rape -and we’re still surprised when young and less young males (and sadly also a lot of, a majority of females) can’t find the difference between rape and sex?

    I most particularly praise your very simple but very pertinent questionning, “What is it to “have sex”?”, “What is the essence of what they/we are trying to claim in claiming “sex”?”

    For indeed, if the *word* sex is culturally and historically stemming from PIV/rape, there is by implication a logical abstract question to be asked: is any non-PIV-related definition of “having sex” that does make sense? Cf indeed your so funny but very accurate theoretical situation of a leaping-grey-squirrels aroused person.
    Put differently, without patriarchy and forced PIV by males on females for the past milleniums (and still on), would we have invented a meaning close to the current one for the action of “having sex”? Or would we have not?

    I would easily imagine a scenario into which “having sex” does exist (after all, sexual arousal and climax do) but does not necessarily draw limits to the meaning of ‘lovership’, and more specifically lesbian lovership.

    Having sex alone is… well i’m not sure i like this use of the expression because if it is acceptable for it to be used like that, then “having sex” doesn’t encompass anymore neither consent nor respect, nor trust, nor intimacy, nor bonding, nor whatnot(0). I personally see that “having sex alone” is thus leading to a definition of “having sex”… that clearly encompass rape. And, you know, if it can be avoided…
    Note: it’s a detail but, needless to say, if needed or desired, we can get rid of the word sex; it doesn’t change anything to the analysis though, nor therefore is it the current problem at stake.

    So: if we center the analyze on the experience of having sex actually with someONE else (and not someBODY, if you see what i mean) (or someoneS for what i care), and more precisely for our interest here, having sex with other lesbians (or females in general actually), then the limitations of the definition of the act must then logically(1) encompass what i previously listed: consent (needless to say, actual one), respect, trust, intimacy (in the non-committing meaning, here we’re not necessarily *there*), bonding (ditto), and so on.

    BUT, what’s important to say is that those things that put limit to “having sex” (and thus, more importantly here, are part of its meaning) can ALL be found elsewhere, and so without any actual reference to any conceit of a sexual part in the act. Put differently: it exists a set of actions (here shared experiences) that encompasses *all those things* (consent, trust, intimacy, bonding, etc) but that goes way beyond the mere “having sex” type of action/shared experience, and thus, by equivalence, “having sex” is only an item among a bigger set of actions.

    That specific result would logically lead to the “accessorization” of that type of action (“having sex”): a lovership between two (or more) people has by no means any necessity to encompass it to be a lovership, ie, it is accessory to it (and what’s important here lesbian lovership included obviously). For lovership is (must be) precisely based on consent, trust, intimacy, bonding, etc, and, it has been shown, all those things remain unlimited to the actions coherently(2) put into “having sex”.

    To resume and clarify the point: inside this view we’re exploring, lovership would (when desired and possible) encompass divers shared experiences among the previously created set of actions based on (limited by) trust, consent, etc, and “having sex” would only be *one among all the others*, not necessarily more important than the others, nor would it be mandatory, and *neither would it be* the “strongest” type in all this set of shared experiences -that point most is important, and may not do unanimity, but i’m pretty sure that by mere example it can be proved.

    A short and small damper though: if “having sex” is neither the most important, nor the strongest way to bond with someONE else, i believe it is still crucial, particularly in such rapey times, to include the data that “having sex”, or in other terms sharing physical sexual intimacy, remains, by pure concrete reality, a very special, and i would rather say a very extreme type of intimacy -not in the meaning that it is the strongest sentimentally speaking (already said indeed), nor in the meaning that it is inherently and always objectively perilous.

    BUT, still, in those times that are ours, it is rather important i think to point out that the true specificity of physical sexual intimacy is in that it concerns direct physical (sensory) contact between two people, and that, as said, by this pure concrete reality, the bodies we live in do have a big significance, and importance, inside our very selves. It is, as, if i remember correctly, Dworkin was saying, the one point of contact between our selves and the world. It is, would i dare to say, the avatar, the materially “what we are” of “who we are”, in this material world(3) then.

    It thus logically does necessarily have an big importance, and although having sex can and should be accessorized in regard to lovership, it shouldn’t, musn’t be by incorrect implication considered to be trivial, another thing exactly alike dining or wandering together. For if any thing that concerns trust is by definition perilous *as much as one can know* (of course sometimes the danger is non-existent, but the only way we can be sure that we won’t suffer a break of trust is precisely by trusting the involved other(s); therefore, loop, and we thus can’t *actually know*, ie without merely trusting), there is nonetheless in my view a specialness in the type of suffering that occurs when the trust is broken *while “having sex”*: because that previously shared experience actually becomes rape(4) (it is at least my definition of rape: a break in or an absence of trust and by implication consent while sharing physical sexual intimacy (note: actual physical contact is not a mandatory part of the definition)), and rape ain’t trivial -in my view at the very least.

    (0) needless to say i hope: i’m of course utterly *not* against masturbation, quite the contrary; i just truly don’t like the use of the expression “having sex” in its meaning.
    (1) logically: of course only if we’re on a radical feminist analysis of human interactions, and what they should look like (mostly, regarding (true, ie RF a minima) morality), which is the case in this comment.
    (2) coherently: as much as it can be.
    (3) in this material world: none spirituality at all, here, for anyways i personally believe not in souls or anything more than brains, but here the analysis is played only in the abstract level of a study of the subjective viewpoint of a person that feels to be “inside” her body; hence the distinction i made between the self and the body.
    (4) another analysis could indeed i think extend the notion of rape to any form of violation of a person, in body as in mind. Still, the then physical rape does remain important and special in my view, as, added to physical, sensory pain, it most crucially always creates suffering in the mind of the victim too, and, which is the real crucial point, a suffering that most usually, or maybe always concerns the *relationship that the person has with her body*, or in other terms, by direct extension, the relationship that the person is having with the rest of the world. in my view, logically, that type of suffering targeting that particular and nowadays very thematic area of the mind isn’t trivial at all; and this is why, extended definition or not, physical rape does have a specialness in my view, and does is very harmful; a harmfulness that i won’t compare to any other, for i never do that kind of thing, for pragmatically, concretely comparing harmfulnesses that would have be defined in a conceptual, abstract way, can’t objectively, and objectively can’t, be done, and anyways must never be done -all this, says me.

    Sorry for the big wall, and hope it’ll be useful to someone, not mattering whether by agreement or disagreement: for any way, as long as we keep thinking the world through, i think there’s hope for it. 🙂

    Finally, accessorily, i wanted to add that i really loved when you said “What is so shitty and inferior about having an overwhelming fondness and respect?”. So many women still think like that, even inside not-too-misogynistic environments, and that’s one of the losses for patriarchy exists that i mourn the most. More generally, i like how you write very much. Good luck for that blog and all. 🙂

    Reply
  3. silverside

    I’ve thought about this a lot too. Especially after the Ken Burns thing on the Roosevelts. Even though he’s a gay dude, he seems unable to say that Eleanor and Lorena Hicock were lovers or lesbians, because there is “no proof” they had genital sex. I find this absurd. In history, most of the time, the only “proof” your going to find of “sex” is pregnancy, or in the case of gay men, arrest records. Women were far too discrete for that, and at any rate, did not prowl public places looking for sex (prostitution is different, as that has nothing to do with sexual desire). So love letters talking about cuddling and sleeping in the same bed, and loving to kiss that little corner by your mouth “don’t count” as sex r sexual as gay men and straight folks understand the term. Insofar as lesbians are strictly defined as women who desire and engage in genital contact with other women, we get to the point where it appears no lesbians existed before 1955 or so. Ridiculous.

    Reply
  4. cursethereign

    “What is so shitty and inferior about having an overwhelming fondness and respect?” Thank you so much for writing this. I also have no idea what lesbian sexual attraction means, why it is so important or how it could be anything but a carry-over from Rapeland. I do understand erotic desire between women, but the word “sex” seems inept because of where it’s been.

    Reply
  5. Deb

    I echo the words of cursethereign! What difference does it make except that once again woman to put in the position of proving our “sexuality”. I was called frigid for 30 years by my male husband because i didn’t want to do those things he saw in his porn and therefore I had low “sex” drive, etc. When I walked out and decided that PIV was not for me any longer, I was challenged by my lesbian friends to find a woman to “have sex with.” Then they questioned whether I might be “asexual” because I was neither sexually attracted to men or women. Why do I have to have a label. I sometimes masturbate mainly because the tension in my body has gone wacko and it is a release, NOT about SEX! Oh good grief! It does get tiresome does it not? Great blog by the way! Thanks for bringing this awareness to us! Hugs and respect!

    Reply
  6. ptittle

    Just finished reading Robert Jensen’s “Getting Off: Pornography and the End of Masculinity” and was struck by this: “Of all the ways in which people might possibly understand and use sexuality in their lives, which are the most consistent with human flourishing? Which are the most consistent with a just and sustainable society?” And as I imagined asking any of my neighbours this question, I immediately imagined every single one of them saying “What’s that?” Sigh.

    (So just had to post this here, to know that SOME people in the world KNOW WHAT THAT IS!)

    (or at least understand the words “just and sustainable society”!)

    Reply
  7. Willow

    In my humble opinion all males and females are attracted to the same sex in varying degrees. Some may be highly attracted to the opposite sex and only a little towards their own or they may feel more or less equally attracted to both sexes. Anyone who claims otherwise is probably pants on fire lying or just not very intune with their own thoughts and feeling (that would be mostly dumb men). The reason most of us are not acting upon these desires is because; most of us are not acting upon these desires. ‘Society’ *cough* sorry I mean the patriarchy forbids gay sex as does.. no wait that’s all I got. We must withhold the precious gender roles at all times and never deviate, never ever, because some stupid reason always. Do I need to explain why men do not want us to have sex with other women unless they are watching (uurgh), it’s because they are terrified that we will enjoy it, a lot!

    In my second humble opinion of the day sex is when 2 people consensuously interact with one others genitalia with the intention of achieving sexual enjoyment. Sorry if that doesn’t sound very exiting but then again I haven’t had sex with a woman… yet.

    xxx

    Reply
  8. witchwind

    THANKS for writing this! Definitely will follow up on this post at some point. Sex is just male objectification IMO, the PIV continuum. That is, what men think, do, before, during and after PIV, how men get aroused by simply objectifying women, by seeing her as a potential PIV prey, as a thing that they will use for themselves. This has nothing to do with tenderness and respecct. PIV is the common denominator. I was sooo relieved myself when I read a lot of Sonia Johnson’s books a couple of years ago and discovered that I wasn’t the only one thinking that “sex” is a male, patriarchal notion tied to men’s appropriation of women. She talks about it in several (or all) of the wildfire books, I really recommend all of them. Without appropriation, there’s deep affection, sensuality of touching, or even genital arousal but it has nothing to do with sex, “couple relationships” (and trauma bonding)!

    Reply
    1. feedthefishes Post author

      Right, I was reviewing The Ship That Sailed Into the Living Room this morning. Sex = stimulus/response = control = hierarchy and sadomasochism. Here are some bits I liked:

      “Sex is what the conquerors labeled one of the shards of my fractured Self.”

      “When a lover touches my vulva, I can’t relax and enjoy the simple pleasure of it because, well trained as I am in stimulus-response, I knew what is required of me. I have a duty to perform: To make something else of if, to turn it into sex.”

      “I am as certain as if advised by my own clear memory that there was no concept of ‘sexual,’ no delineations between ‘friend’ or ‘lover,’ and therefore no line thinkable or possible between friendship and loverhood. No sex, no doing ‘it’ because there was no ‘it’ to do.”

      Reply
  9. Noanodyne

    Since you genuinely seem interested in a discussion, I’ll take on some of the questions you ask.

    You ask, “Why is it so *crucial* that a lesbian be “actually” “sexually” attracted to women, as opposed to “merely” feeling “special friendship”?
    I’ll ask you the reverse: Why is it so crucial to use the word “lesbian” when you mean “friend” or even “special friend”? Further, why must someone co-opt the word “lesbian” to mean something else than what most people think it means? Just the co-opting alone is what makes me suspicious of women who want to do this.

    Then you ask, “What is so shitty and inferior about having an overwhelming fondness and respect? What is so superior about having a genital response/enjoyment of nudity/PIV-reenactment/possessive tendencies/whatever people are defining as “sexual”?”
    Stating that lesbian=sexuality is not about making anything superior or anything else inferior. I know of no women who love women who think that fondness or respect are “shitty” or “inferiror” — I’m not even sure where you would get that idea except as a big leap of inference.

    Stating that lesbian=sexuality and romantic attraction and involvement between women is about protecting a word that illuminates lesbian experience. Claiming that “lesbian” can equate to the fond feelings straight women have for each other erases the very real experience that lesbians have fought to have recognized.

    Here is what lesbians have been told by men and women since forever:
    “It’s not *real* sex without a man.”
    “You just haven’t met the right man yet.”
    “You would change your mind after sex with a man.”
    “You just call yourself a lesbian because you had bad experiences with men.”

    The last one sounds very much like what some women who call themselves “political lesbians” say when they have “come out” — that they have “had it” with men, etc. As if “lesbian” is an answer to men’s treatment of women rather than a wholly separate experience that women have because of their relationship to other women exclusively.

    Lesbian sexuality is a very real thing. The word lesbian denotes and connotes some very powerful experiences. By attempting to make that word mean a bunch of other things, those powerful experiences are flattened, dismissed, demeaned, and ignored. I’m truly surprised how many women are anxious to do that to lesbians who ARE lesbians in the way that most people understand the word.

    Reply
    1. feedthefishes Post author

      Your comment offers context of the larger conversation for anyone who doesn’t yet know it, but the real vs. fake question addressed so often on other blogs is not the interesting question to me right now. I mean I think the question of what sex “is” has implications for this debate, certainly.

      Reply
    2. wwomenwwarriors

      NoAn, you mention this one:

      “It’s not *real* sex without a man.”

      Her blog post is about this one, mostly, from what I gather. A statement like that from anyone is pointing out how sex is defined within patriarchy as meaning intercourse, which can only happen in a heterosexual dynamic. If Lesbianism is about sex with women, but sex is about intercourse (which is due to patriarchy, not women’s reality), then Lesbians have to redefine the meaning of the word sex, otherwise it’s true that Lesbians are not having sex, because sex= intercourse. Sex as a concept is steeped in patriarchal consciousness, as is the concept of sexual orientation, because the notion of categorizing people based on who they share orgasms with serves a purpose within patriarchy in upholding patriarchal status quo. Where does that really leave Lesbians?

      Intercourse is violence against women. If intercourse is synonymous with heterosexuality, then what this means is that the notion of sexuality is a euphemistic, misleading, and a deliberate ploy to keep women available for male penetration by categorizing this as a legitimate sexuality when it’s really serving to muddy a situation of exploitation and violation of women’s boundaries–oppression, patriarchy, etc. Otherwise, one would have to argue that heterosexuality can exist without intercourse being a part of it, and I think that would be wishful thinking, because men came up with the system of classification and rule over what these words mean, not women.

      In order for women to break free from male exploitation and oppression–patriarchy–intercourse would cease to exist. Would the notion of heterosexuality survive such a massive change in relations between the two sexes? I do not think it would, because heterosexuality itself is founded on male exploitation of women. Women are groomed into a role of availability for male penetration, and this is dubbed “heterosexuality.” What’s left when intercourse is removed from the equation is eros, erotic intimacy, etc. Sex is also the word for “the sexes” of female and male, separate especially within radical feminist thought from the notion of gender as the classification of the two main biological categories. The word sex is convoluted when applied to homosexuality if sex denotes intercourse at its linguistic root. Heterosexuality being synonymous with women’s oppression means heterosexuality doesn’t exist as the other pole across from homosexuality. In other words: no one is heterosexual. Heterosexuality is a cover-up for men’s oppression of women.

      Where does this really leave homosexuality? Lesbianism cannot be removed from the context in which it exists, which is as the other side to the coin we call heterosexuality, and heterosexuality is the oppression of women. If no woman is heterosexual (born to be penetrated by men), then what is she? The lines drawn around the word Lesbian are confusing because the language used to define the term is derived from its source in patriarchy. That’s what feedthefishes was talking about. So does a kiss make a woman a Lesbian? Many kisses? What about naked cuddling? At what point does female affection and bond cross into Lesbian territory? And how can this boundary be articulated without defaulting to patriarchal notions of sex? And why should it be so defined? Why is is essential to classify women at all based on how they do whatever it is that a woman must do to be in the category called Lesbian?

      My own bias in this discussion is that I have always been attracted to women and cannot fathom that any woman is completely adverse to intimacy with another woman. Rather than needing to meet the right man, I think women would just need to meet the right woman, free from her patriarchal conditioning telling her that Lesbians are gross, that the female body is gross, and that she’s damned to hell and punished if she is intimate with another woman. I’m very subjective in this view due to me own experience, and that is noted, but do wonder whether or not there is any universal application of this. Meaning, I feel that every woman has the potential to be a Lesbian and that this is actually the natural state of ALL women if patriarchy didn’t exist.

      Reply
      1. Dmh

        “… I feel that every woman has the potential to be a Lesbian and that this is actually the natural state of ALL women if patriarchy didn’t exist … “
        I tend to think like that too.
        I see women’s and men’s sexuality as essentially different and not necessarily a complement of each other.
        I believe that heterosexual normativity (that prevails in our society) is more related with men’s sexuality, similarly to the tendency to classify and label individuals and groups of people.
        On the other hand, homosexuality seems more related with women’s sexuality and connected with the acceptance of diversity and individuality.
        In this case, the evolution of a patriarchal society to a more female-centered one could also lead to the end of predominance of heterosexual orientation.

  10. Resistance

    I am a lesbian and i think all women would be lesbians if they were not brainwashed into performing their sex/gender role by patriarchy. But that doesn’t mean we as lesbian women who have resisted most sex/gender roles (including heterosexuality) for most, if not all, of our lives are not sexual/erotic, or that we are just imitating men when we find women sexually attractive. We are not and the view that we are comes from patriarchy (either we only perform for the male gaze, threesomes ect, or we want to be men). Lesbians who by our own instincts, experiences, common sense ect, have decided our own sex was the better sex and the sex we want to be intimate with from an early age have taken great courage (even if some of us remain in the closet at the time we realise it). To internally accept the truth: women are beautiful (not in a superficial way) wonderful, loving, kind, caring, understanding, patient, intelligent, fair and many other loveable things, that patriarchy devalues. Whilst simultaneously recognising that males are in fact: worthless, sexually unappealing, socially unappealing and in fact a menace and reject them as partners. To do this at an early age, it takes great courage, insight and internal strength. We often have resisted many other sex/gender role behaviours before, but to resist the last one heterosexuality is the most taboo. We have to put up with constant shaming from parents, peers, teachers, media, Everybody. Most of us find it very hard to shake off the shame that was taught to us by patriarchy for our non conformity (woman love) yet we carry on loving women regardless. There are lesbians now who can not even bring themselves to identify as lesbian, cus of the shame attached to the word. To attach even more shame to it by lumping us in with heterosexual sex is unacceptable. Lesbian sexuality stands on its own apart from the fake male patriarchal heterosexuality. Instead of saying lesbian sex isn’t real sex, how about saying heterosexual sex isn’t real sex and the only real sex IS homosexual sex the rest (heterosexual sex) is obtained by pressure?

    By saying lesbian sexuality doesn’t exist, or is based on mens sexuality is just not true. Some of us have “experimented” with other girls before we even knew, what sex was, and enjoyed it. Some of us have been with both sexes and realised that lesbian sex is enjoyable, while straight sex is not (how many straight women can honestly say their 1st time with men was pleasurable?) whilst i’ve never known a woman to say her 1st time with another woman wasnt pleasurable. We deserve recognition for our courage to resist this most fundamental element of patriarchy, we do not deserve to be thought of as imitating mens sexuality. Lesbian sex is not the same as heterosexual sex. Lesbian sex is mutual, about respect, love, intimacy, mutual pleasure, closeness, bonding ect. It is the most spiritual, satisfying and intimate sex there is and to try and cheapen it, by putting it anyway near heterosexuality is unforgivable. It is just showing that the women who do this believe the lie that patriarchy tells us, that women don’t have a sexuality independent of males.

    Lesbians who have acknowledged their woman love (both sexual & spiritual) from an early age, love women in a profoundly deep way. We also do not compete with other women, like straight women do, we do not put women down, like straight women do, we do not try and shame other women into preforming their sex/gender role, like straight women do. This is not meant to get at straight women, its just meant to show the difference in lesbian thought and behaviour compared to those who have conformed to heterosexual patriarchy.

    I do believe that straight (&bi) women need educating on how the patriarchy has brainwashed them into heterosexuality, i couldn’t be more for that, but it should not be at the expense of women who have already rejected heterosexuality: lesbians. Straight women who become political lesbians, need to know that it is natural to enjoy having sexual/erotic contact with other women, it is the most natural and fulfilling thing there is. If it was not our natural state girls would not “experiment” with each other before they even know what sex means (its only later when they find out how disapproved of it is that they stop). A lot of animals also use same sex erotic intimacy to bond with each other, especially animals of high intelligence like dolphins & bonobo monkeys. There is no other reason for them to do this except for bonding and pleasure, so those who think sex is only for reproduction, i’m sorry, but your wrong.

    I believe that some political lesbians have still got patriarchal views that they have yet to get rid of and that the main one is that lesbian sex is somehow like hetero sex, when it is completely different & that lesbian sex is somehow dirty and disgusting like hetero sex, which it is not. They need to work through these things in their own time, in their own way, whilst they are doing that, it would be better for them to identify as asexual for the time being.

    I think political lesbianism is very valid, but until you can truly love women (including sexually/erotically) i think its better just to call yourself asexual. This does not co opt lesbian identity (those of us who have rejected heterosexuality and embraced woman love from an early age) nor does it invalidate women who are leaving heterosexuality. When women who have come from heterosexuality have worked through their patriarchal brainwashing about lesbian sex and women’s bodies ect and understand that loving women both spiritually and physically is beautiful and not threatening, then i think they should call themselves political lesbians. Meaning basically they have come to lesbianism through political consciousness, which is what being a political lesbian should mean. It should not mean a woman who doesn’t want to sleep with men, but still has so internalised hatred of women that she cant possibly bond with them on an sexual/erotic level. That is just asexuality. And a distinction should be made between the two. I hope you can see what i’m saying.

    Reply
    1. Dmh

      “… Lesbian sex is mutual, about respect, love, intimacy, mutual pleasure, closeness, bonding ect. It is the most spiritual, satisfying and intimate sex there is and to try and cheapen it, by putting it anyway near heterosexuality is unforgivable … “
      This is beautiful! 🙂

      Reply
  11. sparklz

    Hi feedthefishes 🙂

    *Just* in case you wouldn’t already have read the great book of Sheila Jeffreys, i highly recommend it to you: “The Lesbian Heresy”.

    It deconstructs and reveals a lot of things about lesbianism, including its (true) historical meaning(s), and the appropriation of the concept by queer politics, itself deriving from misogynistic gay men whose notion of relationship was limited precisely to “sexuality” (in their case, a very well-known notion of dominance/submission, who gave us lesbian SM among other things…).

    hence, by mirror and slow generational infiltration, does appear the very current notion that sexless lesbianism, or even, lesbianism that doesn’t put sex as its core criterion of “validity”, is not “true” lesbianism. it seems normal (why btw?), but it historically isn’t. and history matters, a lot.

    anyways, keep writing, i love what you write! ❤

    Reply
  12. sparklz

    me again, actually, there’s also the 6th chapter (at least, because the rest of the book is great too) of “The Spinster and her Enemies”, of the same author, that talks about what she defines in terms of “passionate friendships” (in other terms, not-specifically-sexual woman-loving-woman relationships):

    “In the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries many middle-
    class women had relationships with each other which included
    passionate declarations of love, nights spent in bed together
    sharing kisses and intimacies, and lifelong devotion, without
    exciting the least adverse comment.”
    (…)
    “These women wrote about their feelings to each other in
    ways which would nowadays seem quite inappropriate to same-
    sex friendship. Faderman describes the friendship between Jane
    Welsh Carlyle and the novelist and spinster Geraldine Jewsbury.
    Jewsbury sought to sustain her friend through her difficult
    marriage to the foul-tempered philosopher Thomas Carlyle. In
    their correspondence they expressed their passionate emotional
    attachment. The following extracts from Jewsbury’s letters show
    how she felt:
    ‘O Carissima Mia…you are never out of either my head or
    my heart. After you left on Tuesday I felt so horribly
    wretched, too miserable even to cry, and what could be done?
    (July 1841); I love you my darling, more than I can express,
    more than I am conscious of myself, and yet I can do nothing
    for you. (October 29 1841); I love you more than anything
    else in the world…. It may do you no good now, but it may
    be a comfort some time, it will always be there for you.
    (May 1842); If I could see you and speak to you, I should
    have no tragic mood for a year to come, I think, and really
    that is saying no little, for I have had a strong inclination to
    hang myself oftener than once with the last month.’ ”

    should we define this declaration of feelings the empirical (dogmatic?) proof that genital contact indeed necessarily happened? (better than hermione’s time-turner!) or, should we assert that the depth of their love is directly subjected to whether or not genital contact happened? if i may, such a dry, analytical, limited indeed definition of love… and i who thought that love was only limited by the presence of the necessary ingredients of (deep and true) caring and respect and trust…

    Reply
    1. sparklz

      to moderate a bit my words, I wanna say that I am both a political lesbian and enjoy with my lover very passionate “erogenous connection” (hard indeed to avoid “sex” and “sexual”, or “physical” which is too vague and “genital” which is too specific, as is “orgasmic” in the end; I don’t like erogenous much because of the use of “erotic” in current society as basically a cover for soft p0rn, but well didn’t find better)
      however, it doesn’t define my lesbianism — and logically, as I don’t wear a t-shirt saying “I have sex with my girlfriend” (to use ‘patriarchal lesbianism’ vocabulary), I am not discriminated and hated for that (they can imagine that but then whether we do it or not, it’s the same treatment by that anti lesbian society). I am discriminated legally regarding the society’s view on my relationship (again, they can’t know for sure whether I ‘have sex’ or not), or in the street if we hold hands or kiss (but, as I don’t ‘have sex’ in the street so, again, same thing)

      therefore, a lesbian oppressed identity based on the criterion of ‘having sex’ or not seems to me somewhat not logical: society can surmise we do it, but whether we do or don’t, same treatment. and, again historically, despite what the current generations seem to believe, fight for lesbianism wasn’t much on the basis of ‘lesbian sex acts’ (indeed, until very late it wasn’t even prohibited, in contradistinction to (male) gay sex acts, because most of the males weren’t even aware of the existence of lesbian ‘sexual acts’, or, seemingly, didn’t seem to care much about it, as there wasn’t any penis in the process)

      it is I think pollution of the gay male agenda that makes us think that everything about lesbianism revolves around sexuality, and therefore too that we have the same agenda that gay males, but, once again the same author Sheila Jeffreys, in “unpacking queer politics” proves how much our agenda is totally incompatible with theirs, at least if one has some (radical) feminist sensibility.

      in the end, our political agenda inside patriarchy is way closer to the ones of spinsters and all other women who refuse their role as sexual slaves of males. doesn’t mean it defines us, but does mean it is our place inside a patriarchy that logically hates us.

      it is also indeed male vision, let us not forget, that makes, inside his p0rnography, for centuries, lesbianism defined as solely a set of sexual acts between women. coincidence? I personally don’t think so.

      let’s not forget that we have, sadly, no true history totally outside patriarchy: it was there for centuries. it shaped language and sexuality of women for centuries. there is no outer place from which lesbians would have come and have happened thus to be from the beginning separated from other women, from patriarchy’s definition of relationship, etc.

      this, I think, was what feedthefishes wanted to say.

      Reply
      1. sparklz

        hi, me again, sorry to make sth of a flood ^^’ if i could i’d edit :/
        just to say that for you and anyone interested in the debate around political lesbianism, and the very connected one around whether or not “sexual relations” are central and mandatory to the label lesbian definition (or even define it totally), there’s this seemingly very famed (in some circles only obviously) debate, titled “Love your enemy? The debate between Heterosexual Feminism and Political Lesbianism” (but the debate is larger than that, contains also criticism from Lesbians who are anti-PL, and more globally who are preferring the more mainstream definition of Lesbianism based on sexuality only or mandatorily).
        The link: https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B3dD4VR6trTUMzYzZTExNmMtY2FlMC00MjlhLTg1ZjItYjFhNGMzMWNlMGIx/edit?hl=en&authkey=CN6ixb8C&pli=1

      2. Resistance

        It is only assumed that those women who had “passionate friendships” ect didnt have sex. This is because they were women, who’s to say whether they did or didnt? The assumption is made that they didn’t because in patriarchy only men can be sexual, or a woman can but only if there is a man involved in some capacity (whether that is a threesome or preforming in a porno ect for a males enjoyment). That doesnt mean that they didnt actually have sex they may have, they may not have, we will never know. You have to remember also that any talk of sex between women openly in letters ect would be unacceptable at that time.
        A woman who we can say for sure did have sex with women is Ann Lister, who kept a diary of her affairs with women going into great detail. Long before any “lesbian identity” or anything was ever created by men or anyone else. Unfortunately she seems to have been uncomfortable to a degree with being a woman and being attracted to women. This is where we have come to again, with young girls (and not too young women) thinking they can only be sexually attracted to women if they are men hence they are “transman” (there are other reasons too, but this is not a small reason).

        There will of been women right from the dawn of creation who had relationships sexual and otherwise with women, most women in those times were kept illiterate so of course you wont be able to read about it. You can see it in the animal kingdom especially amongst bonobos. It is natural and will have always been about, almost certainly even before words were invented.

        I have read lesbian heresy & unpacking queer politics by Sheila Jefferys (also gender hurts & beauty and misogyny). I admire Sheila greatly but we mustn’t rely too much on one persons view for everything. The feminist movement of the 60’s & 70’s was not about having leaders who must always be obeyed, it was about all women having their opinions and ideas taken with equal value, regardless of their background or social standing (contrary to what the so called libfems or sex pozzies will have people believe). Although i admire Sheila’s work greatly, she doesn’t seem to have a very good understanding of what many lesbians (who have known since we were young) actually feel.

        For instance she seems to think only gay men are made to feel ashamed for their sexual feelings ect. This is just not true, as lesbian women we are made to feel guilty about our sexual feelings for women also. If we were just friends who loved each other, but never had sex with each other we would not feel guilty or ashamed. We are taught to feel that sex between women (that doesnt involve men in anyway) is “wrong”, “dirty” “shameful” ect. By saying you can be a lesbian who doesn’t ever want to have sex with women is playing right into that myth. It is implying that if you do want to have sex with women you are as bad as the straight men. This is just not true, being a lesbian and loving women spiritually and sexually is absolutely not the same as heterosexuality. A woman who comes to lesbianism from a heterosexual perspective may feel this way, but those of us who have known we are lesbians from a young age know it is VERY different.

        As an example of the “passionate friendship” theory i’ll share this true story. I have a middle aged friend who is bi (tho she has never acted on her feelings for women). We are very close and have a lot of love between us, i love her (emotionally & spiritually) just as much as i’d love a woman who i was having a sexual relationship with. We dont have sex (although we have kissed on occasion) and she has txt me some lovey duvey stuff at times. By the “romantic friendship” definition of lesbianism we would be having a lesbian relationship, but we are not. She calls me her “special friend” but we are not in a lesbian relationship. She would never think of me as her “partner” and would i would never refer to her as such. We are very close friends,”special friends”, but we are not in a lesbian relationship. We are not as close as we would be if we were in a lesbian relationship. We are not lovers.

        When a woman is in a lesbian relationship including sexual relations, there is a much deeper bond and level of trust that is achieved between the two women and by calling “passionate friendships” lesbian it undermines this. I think that the term political lesbian should only be used as a way to inform hetero women how their sexuality has been influenced by the compulsory heterosexual culture. If these women’s feelings then grow to encompass sexual feelings for other women, then yes they are lesbians. If these women want to be in asexual relationships with other women the term “passionate friendship” would be more appropriate.

      3. Resistance

        Also when does the woman drop the label “political lesbian” and just call herself a lesbian? When she does have sexual feelings for other women or does she just keep this label indefinitely? If she keeps this label indefinitely then that is clearly saying “i’m better than those dirty dykes, cus i’m a political lesbian, i’m not like those women”. It should only be used as a tool to inform other women of their compulsory heterosexuality that is all, not as an identity itself.

        I have been speaking to other lesbians both young & old and a lot of them are just as sick of the queer theory stuff as i am. I have been telling them to get more involved in radical feminism. I told them that radical feminists actually love women and care about them, unlike the gay men & fellas in dresses. But i’m worried now if i should of told them this, looking at some of the things that are being said.

        These women need to be accepted for who they are, women young and not so young who love and are attracted to other women: lesbians. If they then find out a lot of radical feminists actually want to shame them for their lesbianism by saying “your just like heterosexual men”, cus they are sexually attracted to other women, they will then go back to queer theory, cus at least they don’t feel shamed by that. I do care about these women, it is these women after all who are being harmed by queer theory, there needs to be a bit more empathy for these women.

        Women who are lesbians (who have known since they were young) do feel ashamed of their sexual feelings, not just their identity, but their actual sexual feelings. We are made to feel this by patriarchal culture (hetero women also contribute to it) it is so enforced, it becomes engrained in our psyches. So that whenever we feel attracted to another woman we automatically feel guilty and ashamed. This is very very hard for a lesbian woman to get rid of. The feelings of shame that a lesbian woman is made to feel often causes her to have depression and anxiety problems, cus her self-esteem is shot. I personally know lesbian women who can not even look other women in the eye, cus their feelings of shame are so strong. There is a reason that a lot of lesbian women have drink and drug problems and that is cus they are trying to get away from the shame they are made to feel because of their lesbianism. I’m sorry but this is true, most will not admit that openly, but that i can assure you is the cause. Having sexual feelings is natural after all, our bodies are built to feel good from it, these women shouldn’t have to feel so ashamed of their natural feelings. We need to make these lesbian women feel welcome in the radical feminist movement not alienate and shame them. We are on the same page here i presume?

        (The sex pozzies/ libfems want to make everythin about sex, n it seems some here want to deny women have any sex feelings at all, both are equally wrong.)

        (Sorry about the length of my posts, i think i’ve written a thesis 🙂 and maybe i’ve gone off topic a bit? Please feel free to bin them if you want.)

  13. Dmh

    @ Resistance I love your posts, they’re intriguing and profound, and keep me thinking what is the true meaning of “end of patriarchy”.
    Your posts suggest that it could be a much deeper “revolution” than the majority of people expect.
    You should have a blog. 🙂

    Reply

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